‘Great-grandmother’ of crocodiles that lived 225mn yrs ago found

January 14th, 2011 - 1:03 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Jan 14 (ANI): Paleontologists have discovered the world’s oldest known crocodile ancestor that lived in what is now West Texas 225 million years ago.

The toothy animal, yet to be officially named, came on the scene about the same time as dinosaurs began evolving in Argentina, according to a Texas Tech University press release.

Researchers believe that because there was so much land to run on, the early crocodile ancestor was built more for land speed than aquatic surprise, reports Discovery News.

“This is a brand new animal and possibly the great-grandmother of all crocodiles,” Doug Cunningham, who helped to perform a CT scan of the reptile’s fossil, was quoted as saying in the TTU press release.

“These early crocodiles look like your typical terrestrial animals. An intact skull is very rare to find. One of the exciting things is we were able to see inside its brain case with the CT scan. We can see the brain evolved very slowly,” he added.

And it was this braincase and an ankle joint that linked the early reptile to crocodiles.

“It has lots of sinuses in the braincase like those of modern crocs,” said Sankar Chatterjee, curator of paleontology at the Museum of Texas Tech, who also worked on the project.

“These sinuses may be linked to their vocalization. Unlike most reptiles, crocs are very vocal and hear well. We described a similar animal from China that gives us some idea about the way this animal lived,” he added.

The fossil’s hind limbs, hip girdle and tail clearly suggested that it was a land animal adapted to walking or running.

In contrast, modern aquatic crocodiles have small legs, and the tail creates the forward thrust by undulation it needs to move quickly in the water.

“Leaving land for the water was probably the smartest thing crocodiles and alligators did. That way, they didn’t encounter the dinosaurs like other animals did,” Chatterjee concluded. (ANI)

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